Carly Rae Jepson ‘Emotion’ – review

30 Sep

Carly Rae Jepson may primarily be known for her singles – particularly the classic ‘Call Me Maybe’ – but new record ‘Emotion’ is her first real attempt to be taken seriously as an album artist. The biggest influence on the sound and content of the record is very clearly Taylor Swift. Like ‘1989’, ‘Emotion’ is seriously indebted to the decade that brought us Madonna, Prince and shoulder pads. And like ‘1989’, ‘Emotion’ never sounds falsely nostalgic or old fashioned. The 80s influences dovetail nicely with cutting edge pop productions and a very 21st century approach to songwriting that places emphasis on catchy hooks whenever and wherever they’ll fit – whether musical, melodic, sonic or otherwise, the album is jam packed with them.

This is partially thanks to the astonishing array of talent at work behind the scenes – Max Martin, Arial Richsted, Rostam Batmanlij And Dev Hynes all had a hand in songwriting and production and with them at the helm it’s hard to see how things could have gone wrong. Obviously they don’t. But Rae Jepson must also receive credit for bringing these talents together and for making the album flow seamlessly from start to end. This does feel like an album first and foremost rather than a collection of singles with glued on filler. She co-wrote all the songs here and her lyrical voice has developed greatly since the moon/June rhyming of her early career.

The songs focus on love in the shallow end – early feelings that can seem overwhelming and scary one minute and entirely forgettable the next. ‘Boy problems? Who’s got em?’ She has. The brightest and most memorable hook on here is, simply ‘I really, really, really, really, really, really like you’ as though it were uttered straight out of the mouth of a lovesick twelve year old. Most of her thoughts are boiled down to simple and direct declarations. I rather like Jepson’s innocence – whether real or feigned – as it’s unusual for a modern pop star to talk about love so sweetly. There is no real drama or complication to these romances; they tend to be black and white with no real complexity. It’s love as It was presented to 1950s teenage America, and in this cynical world, that’s a refreshing twist. It’s no coincidence that the song where things do become slightly murky, ‘LA Hallucinations’, is easily the weakest thing on here.

These are twelve, sparkling, clean, PG friendly pop songs that are utterly delightful and moorish on a case by case basis. ‘I Really Like You’ is possibly the best song of 2015 and ‘Your Type’ and ‘Run Away With Me’ can’t be too far behind. If anyone of these tunes came on the radio, you’d smile. In a way this is almost to the album’s detriment; imagine getting a tin of roses or quality street chocolates and finding it full of strawberry cream – it’s everyone’s favourite flavour but after twelve in a row you start to feel a little bit sick and crave something with a bit of crunch or richness or bite.

Carly Rae Jepson isn’t the most distinctive singer, and the one big flaw of the album is that she could have done more to implant her own personality on to songs that ultimately bear the distinctive stamp of various other famed producers. And does she do quite enough to to distance herself from the obvious Taylor Swift and Haim comparisons? Probably not. But then a similar criticism could be levelled at some of the greatest popstars of all time – I doubt if people really cared if The Supremes personality shone through the Motown factory’s grand productions and lyrics, they were and remain fantastic songs. If Carly Rae Jepson continues at this pace she’ll surely be able to rival even The Supremes in the hits stakes. ‘Emotion’ is a clear step on the journey to becoming a great pop star.

7.5/10

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